By Claire Hoffman
The retail corporation used virtual merchandise booths, an interactive trivia game, and other creative strategies during its annual U.S. Holiday Meeting.
Walmart’s annual holiday meeting serves a few different purposes. It’s a chance for the brand’s U.S. store leadership to preview new merchandise and make plans for the season, of course—but it’s also a place to share best practices, recognize key accomplishments, and create a sense of camaraderie and team bonding.
And in 2020, those goals felt more crucial than ever. “It was important, especially virtually, to create a sense of community and share appreciation,” explained Jenifer Bice, Walmart’s senior director of event solutions. “Our store managers and their associates have been doing so much for their communities by serving on the frontlines during the pandemic, and this meeting provided a platform to recognize their hard work—while also providing important information to prepare for what will be the most unique holiday season ever.”
The two-day virtual meeting ran from Sept. 8-9 and drew 7,500 Walmart associates from around the country. Here are five smart ways the event team kept employees engaged for the duration of the gathering.
1. A custom-designed virtual setting
Walmart’s event solutions team worked with event agency INVNT, who built, designed, and managed what they call a “unique world within a world” experience. “We set out to create an isometric version of what the conceptual Walmart store in Anytown, USA, would feel like during the holiday season,” said Lauren Kuhnie, director of business development for INVNT. “We also managed creative design for the platform, combining Walmart’s vibrant branding with the excitement of the holiday season.”
2. A mix of live and prerecorded sessions
The team quickly realized that engagement is everything. “Creating connections is important, regardless of if you’re in person or virtual, so incorporating as many live components into the meeting as we could was a core engagement and content strategy,” said Bice. Attendees could participate in real time through interactive chats, games, and Q&As, and there was a mix of both live and recorded messages from Walmart executives.
Prerecorded video was also used for the virtual “merchandise floor,” which was segmented by product type and filled with “booths” that could be clicked on to get more information. “Our store leaders are accustomed to talking to our merchants and touching and examining the products that will be coming to their stores,” noted Bice. “In the virtual space, we created this through short videos of the merchants talking about their products, as well as product features that got up close and also shared key attributes in an easy-to-consume way.”
As an added bonus, attendees can now go back and view the information shared in these videos at any time.
3. A new format that accommodated different learning styles and schedules
By thinking through how a virtual audience would receive information differently than an in-person audience, the team was able to make some conscious adjustments for the event’s overall format. “How our associates were going to experience the meeting was the basis for all decision-making—it had to be meaningful, informative, and engaging for them,” said Bice.
For example, instead of asking associates to stick to a specific hour-by-hour schedule, the virtual environment “gave us the flexibility to have a mix of live sessions at specific times and rotational sessions on-demand, so that attendees could access them in the order and time that made the most sense for each individual person,” she explained. The majority of experiences—including breakout sessions, the merchandise floor, a health and wellness area, and information from HR—could be accessed any time.
There were, however, a few sessions that everyone was asked to join at a specific time. For example, “the live general sessions featured messages from Walmart leadership and included surprise appearances from [musician] Chris Stapleton and others, so we wanted to ensure no one missed those,” Bice said. “It was a great way to bring all of our store managers together as one, and with the addition of the live chat function they could interact and comment on the content in real time.”
4. Elements of gamification
To further keep employees engaged, the meeting featured an interactive, holiday-theme trivia game. The idea was to reward attendees who could showcase their newfound knowledge of the brand’s 2020 holiday strategy. “Associates could click on a series of wrapped gifts to answer questions about specific business units … and there were live leaderboards and prizes that recognized the high performers,” explained Kuhnie.
Bice said the game turned out to be an effective way to promote some friendly competition—and also to ensure everyone was fully exploring the virtual platform and actually retaining the information. “It was a great success, and we’ve now identified the winners who are going to get some pretty awesome prizes,” she said.
5. A variety of different formats, session styles, and environments
To keep things fresh, the team utilized a variety of different sets, interview formats, and content styles to keep attendees interested for the duration of the meeting. “Variety is key all of the time, but especially in a virtual environment,” said Kuhnie.
Bice added that moving to a virtual meeting allowed the team to “push the boundaries of creativity. In an in-person setting where you can touch and feel everything, it has to be real. So to create an environment where attendees had real-life elements—like leadership messages and in-depth videos of merchandise—coupled with a feeling of the virtual world, complemented each other nicely,” she said. “It allowed the meeting to feel much more impactful and ‘cool’ than the Zoom meetings we’ve all become so accustomed to.”
Check out the article as it originally appeared on BizBash here.